Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

The Super Moon!

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On Sunday, September 27, a total lunar eclipse will coincide with a Super Moon. What does this mean? The moon will be at its closest point in its orbit around the Earth, which makes the moon appear bigger. At the same time, we will experience a Lunar Eclipse. A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Sun, Earth, and Moon are aligned, causing the Moon to pass through the Earth’s shadow. All of this will be visible throughout much of the world on Sunday evening into early Monday morning. In North America the Super Moon and the very beginning of the Lunar Eclipse will be visible in the early evening – perfect before preschoolers head to bed! For more information about the Lunar Eclipse, be sure to check out the National Air and Space Museum Blog.

Since the Super Moon and the Lunar Eclipse will be so visible for young children, this event is a great way to begin talking about Light and Shadows in your classroom. This summer, I spoke with Jason Harris, a DCPS teacher from Powell Elementary School, who did an extensive exploration of Light and Shadows with his four year olds. He began with a discussion about light first and what students already knew about light. He began by having the students use a projector for the first time and explored both translucent and opaque items on it. Here’s how some of the discussion went:

Teacher – I’m wondering what we know about light?
Jaiden – You can use shapes with your hands to make shadows
Teacher – What kind of shapes?
Jaiden – A green triangle
Teacher – To make a shadow you need to have….
Students “Light”
Teacher – What else do we know about light?
Archer – When you look very close to it it can hurt your eyes.
Sergio – You need to go to the doctor
Lio – I agree with that.
Teacher – Do you have any other ideas?
Lio – You can make crazy shadows
Ethan – “It helps you see.”
Teacher – What kinds of light can help you see?
Ethan – Some toys
Teacher – What else makes light?
Carolina – If you turn it off you cannot see
Caleb – You don’t want to waste the power
Teacher – Tell me more about that.
Caleb – The light doesn’t have much power. The lights with the three lines. I have those lights at my house.
Teacher – Are they big lights or little lights?
Caleb – Big lights. There’s not one in the bathroom but there’s one in Owen’s room and my room. It’s in the ceiling.
Teacher – Where else can we get light from?
Liliana – In the house. I have only one and I don’t have another one out there (in her backyard).
Teacher – Where?
Liliana – I don’t have lights in the backyard. Only lights in the backyard.
Lio – Electric.
Teacher – Like where?
Lio – A string that has electric. There is electricity everywhere so you can get light for everything.
Chase – From your house.
Teacher – Where in your house?
Chase – When my light didn’t work my mom put a different light in.
Teacher – What kind of light is it? Is it in the ceiling like Caleb or a lamp like we have in the purple center?
Chase – a lamp
Teacher – What else makes it light outside?
Orion – The sun. When it’s dark I have a nightlight in my room and in the kitchen and Daddy’s room and Grandma’s room and the bathroom.

They continued their conversation at lunch:
Chase – At night you make shadows
Ethan – When it’s light outside, you don’t need lights in the car.
Teacher – Why not?
Ethan – Because the lights won’t shine.
Caleb – But when you open the door the light in the back turns on.
Archer – They turn off the lights so they don’t get out of power.
Caleb – I have a light in our living room that has a button.
Lio – I have a light unicorn and it’s broken because it’s out of batteries.
Caleb – That’s why you shouldn’t keep the light on too long.
Davies – I’m scared of the dark.
Teacher – Why are you scared of the dark?
Davies – I see a monster at my house.
Teacher – When its dark is it easy to see or hard to see?
Davies – Hard to see. A monster is at my house and I be scared.
Teacher – You’d be scared because you couldn’t see.
Valentina – One day I was scared because we turned off the lights of our house and then we had a candela.
Teacher – A candle when the power went off. A candle makes light too.
Lio – A projector. Movies have light too for the movies.
Sergio – You’re sleepy you’re scared of the night. You want to go to the car because somebody scared of the dark.
Teacher – Davies said he’s scared in the dark sometimes because it’s hard to see.

These sweet and thought-provoking conversations are wonderful entry points to discussing both light and shadow. Perhaps you can encourage students to look at the moon with their families this weekend, even if they can’t stay awake for the Lunar Eclipse. I hope you get a chance to see the Lunar Eclipse. The continental United States won’t see another total Lunar Eclipse until 2019!

(and, in case your students are curious, it is perfectly safe to view the Super Moon and the Lunar Eclipse directly with your eyes!)